Monday, August 5, 2013
Counting Pre-Tested Zucchini
Pre-Tested Light Bulbs
We recently saw a display that advertised this and wondered if it was anything like pre-owned cars. I can hear it now - "Well, gee, that light bulb was tested thoroughly. After all, we ran that thing for two years and it always worked fine. I can't understand how it would have burnt out on you so soon."
The Foolishness of Numbers Only
At a place Rob used to work for, a mandate was brought down that programmer effectiveness would be measured by the "lines of code" each person in our department wrote. There was no control for quality nor was there a way to determine what lines of code were needful. I couldn't help but think of this experience when some recent political commentary focused on the ineffectiveness of Congress because they had passed so few laws. A person attacked this as a silly way to judge effectiveness. I waited with baited breath to hear them say things about judging quality of actions that might include workability (etc etc). Instead they made the argument that it should be the number of laws we REPEAL that should be the measure of success.
As many of you know, I like numbers and enjoy working with numbers. But, I'll also be the first to tell you that they give you only part of the story.
Speaking of Numbers
We're getting some production numbers on the farm and I find it interesting to share a few with you now and again. We do this, in part, to give everyone some perspective as to what the farm, as a whole, needs to do in order to meet obligations.
So - quick primer. If I want to give everyone on Tuesdays with a standard share 2 zucchini and everyone with a large 4 zucchini and I have 35 standard shares and 10 large shares, I need 110 zucchini at the minimum. But, if I want to be sure that everyone gets size choices and good quality, I need more like 125. Adding Wednesday and Thursday shares, we need about 275 zucchini in a given week for this distribution number.
So, now it isn't just about a raw number of zucchini, it is also about the timing those zucchini have as they reach picking size. It would be ridiculous to say I had a great year for zucchini for our CSA if I harvested 3000 zucchini for the year, but they all were ready in one week. And this still says nothing about quality and selection.
If these zucchini taste bad, then "3000" is a useless measurement in terms of positive production. And, from our perspective, this number doesn't reflect the selection provided to members for size and type of zucchini. Everyone has slightly different tastes and needs for their family. It is not every family that wants the 'butterstick' size (about 4-6" long) and it isn't every week that someone wants the 'Louisville Slugger' monsters that sometimes occur. And, we enjoy giving people the option to choose between varieties, such as the Golden Zucchini, Cocazelle (striped) and Midnight Lightning (dark green).
Now that we've typed all of that, do you think there is a market in "pre-tested" zucchini? The hardest part would be trying to figure out how to attractively package this product.
What? I was thinking about zucchini with a bite taken out of each one. What were you thinking?!?
Road Map to Zucchini
And finally, we have entered the time of year when Rob's arms have all sorts of little cuts on them. If you want to know why - go to this blog post -> Road Map to Zucchini. It is still an accurate assessment of picking zukes. The only change is that we now plant these things in 200 foot rows (we have 7 rows of zucchini and summer squash at this time).
Stay tuned for MORE about zucchini! Why? Because "zucchini" is a great word. And, zucchini can be used so many great ways!